Hypothesis, Explanations & Conclusions in Reading Passages

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

All science experiments follow the same pattern in order to determine the truth. This lesson discusses how some reading passages use the similar structure of a hypothesis, explanation and conclusion to prove arguments.

Parts of a Reading Passage

Have you ever done a science experiment? If so, you would have had to follow a certain pattern. First, you would come up with a hypothesis of how or why something is happening. Then you would test that theory with experiments, and as you review the results, make a judgement about whether or not to accept that hypothesis as fact.

At times, reading passages are structured similar to that of a scientific experiment.

For some reading passages you can see the author writing in a similar process. The passage will begin by stating a hypothesis, move onto the explanation, and lastly draw some sort of conclusion.

Unfortunately writers do not get to use lasers
miliatry experiment

The Hypothesis

A reading passage that follows this pattern begins with the hypothesis, which is the author's proposed idea of how or why something happened. When writing about literature, this can also mean drawing meanings from certain pieces of writing. The hypothesis could be about some world issue, or an analysis of other pieces of literature.

The most important characteristic of the hypothesis in a reading passage is the thesis, which is the one statement that declares the main purpose or argument of the whole paper or article. The hypothesis usually takes a few paragraphs to outline, and should evolve into a thesis that states the overall main idea. This thesis should also give some sort of direction to where the rest of the writing will go. Look at the following examples of theses.

  • Recycling is a negligible solution to pollution and global warming in today's society.
  • Throughout the ages, classic literature has limited the character type into which women fall to either the pure Virgin Mary, or the wicked Mary Magdalene.

A hypothesis (and whole paper in general) could focus on a wide variety of topics. If you are reading a scientific journal, you're more like to see the recycling example as the focus for an entire article. However, if you are reading a literary critique, the women in literature example is much more likely. Whatever the topic, be sure that you clearly understand the hypothesis and thesis of the writing before moving onto the more complex sections.

The Explanation

After the hypothesis, a science experiment would move onto the actual testing phase. However, in a reading passage, there is no real experiment. Instead, the author must justify their claim or theory with an explanation. Where a scientist would attempt to support a hypothesis through scientific research and experimentation, an author cites examples and details.

Luckily the mask is optional for reading passages

The important characteristics to note in the explanation portion of any reading passage are the evidence, details and facts that support the author's point of view. The most compelling evidence consists of specific examples to prove what it is the author is claiming. Let's use the second sample thesis from above as an example.

  • Throughout the ages, classic literature has limited the character type into which women fall to either the pure Virgin Mary, or the wicked Mary Magdalene.

For this argument, the author needs to provide specific examples from classic works of literature that show the portrayal of women in one of two categories. In addition, the writer needs to provide a clear account of how those examples support the claim.

For instance, the writer might choose to use Charles Dickens' famous novel, 'A Tale of Two Cities' to cite evidence of stereotyped female characters. The two main women in the novel consist of a too-perfect-to-be-true, naïve, young wife and a cold-hearted, unforgiving, bloodthirsty female revolutionary. Both these examples clearly show the two opposite categories for fictional women.

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